Thursday, May 19, 2016

Something Holy

God has never healed a thorn in the flesh. But what does that mean for someone like you or me?

There are two kind of "Christian" responses we tend to have about ideas like this one. The first is that over time, such a thorn just doesn't bother us any more because it fades into the mist of a blessed life. We can almost...ignore whatever thing it is that seems to plague us because in the grand scheme of who we are and all that God is doing in our lives, it just is not consequential.

This thinking has so many problems that it's difficult to know where to begin. First, to embrace this argument is to say that there's something about you that doesn't fit. There's one piece of you that's not part of the rest of you. Second, and perhaps most troubling to the heart, it says that God is a God who leaves you trapped in a fiction. This Author of your very life doesn't worry about making all the chapters work. If a thorn in the flesh is something that God never heals, what are you supposed to make of a God who doesn't heal something that doesn't matter anyway? It's theologically untenable. Like God is somehow not interested in, or invested in, every detail of your life. Like God just allows things to persist in you that have nothing to do with what He's created in you.

Third, and this is where these first two come together, if you ignore the thorn in your flesh, you're unable to tap into something incredible about yourself that makes you uniquely who God created you to be and allows you to do what God uniquely created you to do. If you don't embrace every facet of who you are, you sacrifice something - and it's not a sacrifice that is pleasing to God. It's blood offered to an idol, to the image of yourself that you've erected in your own head. Maybe even your heart.

The second temptation that we have when it comes to these unhealed thorns in the flesh is to wrap them in Christian language and determine that somehow, God just gives us "peace" about it. It sounds Christian enough. It sounds like the kind of thing God might want. Doesn't it? Peace? Jesus even says He's come to give us peace.

But having peace with a thorn in the flesh means, to most of us, that we're "okay" with it. That we've accepted that it's just going to be part of our existence. That we're learning to live with it because it's never going away. That we're accommodating it in our lives because we have no other choice. That we've determined that it's not really that bad after all; it

Sound like the full and abundant life God has for you? Sound like the conclusion God wants you to draw about your own life? It's okay?

Peace is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, but it is not God's answer to the troubling things in the depths of your soul. You must be content to rest in the heart of God, but you were never meant to be okay with life.

As far as I understand, and I have quite a journey left to travel (I think) in this broken world, the very real ache of a thorn in the flesh never goes away. God doesn't necessarily heal every broken thing about us. And it doesn't just stop hurting. I don't think it ever stops hurting.

But by the grace of God, by the heart of Him, you come to this place where you start to understand that it's beautiful. You start to see not how it's hurting you, but how it's holding you. Not how it's hindering you, but how it's shaping you. One day, you realize that you're caught up in the middle of this story that you could never have written with a thousand imaginations, and you understand how this chapter, this paragraph, this small little detail really fills out the character of who you are.

I won't say you're thankful for it; that's a hard place to get to. I won't say it because I'm not there yet myself, so it would be just one of those things that Christian people like to say but not to live. If I'm ever living it, I'll let you know. So I won't say you're thankful for it, but I might're broken by it. It's the weirdest thing. When you discover how this one thing, this one unhealable thing in you and its persistent ache play into the very heart and purpose God has created in you, you're both broken by and healed by this realization.

And you never, you just never, come to the place where you decide that this is okay.

But you do get to where it's beautiful.

And by the grace of God, maybe you even come to the place where it's holy. Because I think in a lot of ways, it's here, in the deep, unhealable ache of a thorn in the flesh, that holy begins for us. For you. For me.

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